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Patients’ opinions of acute chest pain care: a qualitative evaluation of Chest Pain Units


M. Johnson: e-mail:


Title. Patients’ opinions of acute chest pain care: a qualitative evaluation of Chest Pain Units.

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study to explore the experiences of individuals receiving Chest Pain Unit care and routine Emergency Department care for acute chest pain.

Background.  Chest Pain Units were established in the United States of America with the aim of reducing admissions and costs, whilst improving quality of life and care satisfaction. Trials showed these units to be safe and practical; however, there was a need to establish whether Chest Pain Units could be cost-effective in the United Kingdom, and whether use of a nurse-led protocol could be acceptable to patients.

Method.  We carried out 26 semi-structured interviews in 2005–2006 with patients across seven trial Chest Pain Units in the United Kingdom (14 in intervention sites and 12 in control sites) to explore issues that patients considered were important in their care experiences, and to develop possible explanations for the main trial outcomes. We analysed transcripts using the Framework approach to identify themes relating to care experiences.

Findings.  Differences in care experiences were more distinct between individual sites than between control and intervention sites. Satisfaction with care was high overall. Interactions with healthcare professionals, in particular specialist nurses, were valued in terms of reassurance, calming effect and competence. Indications for care improvement concerned information-giving about investigations, diagnosis, and self-care advice. Patients with non-cardiac causes needed to feel more supported after discharge.

Conclusion.  Differences between modes of care may not coincide with identified trial outcomes. Qualitative methods can identify aspects of care that improve patient acceptability. The specialist nurse role appears particularly important in providing satisfactory individualized chest pain care.